A computer is going to replace you.

January 18, 2006 - Get free updates of new posts here

I traveled to New York a few weeks ago and upon standing in line to check-in my luggage I was directed by the ticket agent to use a computer kiosk. That seemed strange that America West and possibly other struggling airlines needed to hire people to tell me to use the computer that I would have used regardless.

It got me thinking about their jobs and my past job at Intel. I realized that SO many people and positions can be replaced. Think about how many of the activities or routines you handle in your position are mundane or repetitive. I know my old group dealt with tons of basic Microsoft Excel maintenance that a computer can replace. Think about ATMs and the time that saved, self-checks the grocery store, those new DVD self-check out systems and other things coming out daily.

It is not so much of outsourcing that people should worry about (well they should) but having your position be so bland that you can be easily replaced. I think it comes from complacency and people not improving their positions. You need to worry when you are doing things that anyone with a high school diploma could learn if they had the right time and a good teacher. I think as my friend Ian would say it is about finding a passion and the right position where no computer can replace your service.

Web design, programming, call centers, internet kiosks, optimizing #s and so many things can be sent to India or be handled by a computer. I think students and young professionals need to recognize that immediately and start to stand out in ways where positions can’t be cut. Or people can take this threat as a chance to start something themselves and not be at the mercy of a higher ups position to replace you.

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5 responses to “A computer is going to replace you.

  1. kareem Reply

    agreed noah. it’s creativity and differentiation that will make you stand out, and it’s significantly easier to do both now than it ever was in the past.

    my guess one reason people don’t do it more is because they don’t truly enjoy what they do… so the rationale is, why bother taking the extra steps? People should take Ian’s advice and ask themselves some questions… life’s too short.

  2. Joe Reply

    Noah: I was just listening to the audiobook version of “The World is Flat” (by Thomas Friedman), which describes how a whole range of jobs (including those of so-called “knowledge workers”) will increasingly be performed by people in other countries … so robots aren’t the only competition.

    Sean: Kathy Sierra had some great “motivational” posters in her most recent post on Creating Passionate Users: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/01/real_motivation.html

    Kareem: excellent question(s)! I’m reminded of Rick Jarow’s “Ultimate Anti-Career Guide” (http://www.anticareer.com/) and of one of my favorite quotes (often attributed to Harold Thurman Whitman):

    “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”